China | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


China's authoritarian regime continues to place widespread restrictions on freedoms of the press and of expression. A combination of formal statutes and informal directives forbids media outlets from promoting political reform, covering internal party politics or the inner workings of government, criticizing Beijing's domestic and international policies, or reporting financial data that the government has not released. However, after a recent transfer of power to a younger generation of leaders, officials more frequently allow journalists to report on local corruption and other ills that the party itself seeks to alleviate. Because all stories are potentially subject to prepublication censorship, many reporters avoid certain topics or otherwise practice self-censorship. At the end of the year, Chinese jails held 39 journalists, including one South Korean, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Other journalists have been harassed, detained, threatened, or dismissed from their jobs because of their reporting. Officials also have suspended or shut down some magazines, newspapers, and publishing houses. While China's print media are both public and private, the state owns and operates all radio and television stations; coverage on the broadcast media promotes the government line. Nevertheless, talk radio and lively tabloid newspapers flourish in many Chinese cities. Hoping to encourage greater financial self-sufficiency, the government introduced regulations requiring all publications to earn at least half of their revenue from subscriptions, and shortly thereafter authorities closed 673 unprofitable state-funded newspapers and periodicals. The government promotes use of the Internet, which it believes to be critical to China's economic development, but regulates access, monitors use, and restricts and regulates content. Journalists, students, and political dissidents are at times detained or jailed for Internet-related offenses. Hong Kong's traditionally free press continues to be relatively outspoken, although many media outlets practice some self-censorship when reporting on Chinese politics, powerful local business interests, and calls for Taiwanese or Tibetan independence. During the year, a broad range of civil society groups, business interests, and citizens managed to block implementation of the controversial Article 23 national security legislation through sustained campaigning and street protests.